The Four Kinds of People -Bhagavad Gita, Ch 18, Vs 40-45

The Four Castes

40-41
There is nothing on earth among living beings, or even in heaven among the gods, that can exist free of the three gunas of Nature. The innate actions of people — Brahmans, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas and Shudras — are therefore determined according to the gunas of Nature.

1. Brahman (God-person) – Priest, spiritual leader, teacher, scholar.

2. Kshatriya (Warrior) – Warrior or leader of the People.

3. Vaishya (Tradesman) – Merchant, journeyman, businessman.

4. Shudra (Servant) – Laborer. (Originally part of the Kashatriya caste but since degraded. For more details, read “Who Were the Shudras?”).

“Nothing on earth … can exist free of the three gunas” says that there is no such thing as not acting, for the gunas are forms of action in Nature. As beings we have bodily forms that exist in the realm of Nature, so we are not exempt from Action. So there is no one, not even among the gods, who can exist free of Action and its effects.

  • The gods – deva (m) or devi (f) — Divine Individuals on a higher plane of being than our own.

As long as you are being something, you are not exempt from Action. 

When a yogi is ill or suffering, it is often believed by others that he cannot really be a yogi, or even an avatara; he would be immune to such maladies, or would simply cure the problem and remain solidly in Divine Bliss. But they forget that his physical body, which is a part of nature, is as vulnerable to nature’s effects and maladies as anyone else. Bodies do not exist in the Absolute. Bodies can only exist in Relative realms. 

“The innate actions of people” refers to the way people tend to carry out action according to their natural traits, abilities, talents, interests, etc. We are all born with something that we can do well. It is only natural that we use this as an occupation in life. It was once believed, and probably still is, that these traits are inherited, and therefore set in stone.

There was probably a time when people naturally tended to stick to their own kind of people. However, with the descent from a more enlightened time into a darker and overpopulated age, this is no longer as prominent. Nowadays, likenesses are more likely to be based on intolerance. Standards are more likely to be based on class (money), religion and race. But the four kinds of people mentioned here, still have something equally valuable to teach us.

Four Castes

This verse is introducing us to the caste system. It is my opinion that the caste system as we know it today, was not originally meant as a hard rule to be followed at all costs, but as a guide. I also think that it is essentially correct. It provides us with some practical understanding of people and how people are ‘wired’ in general — their characteristics, traits and tendencies, and their various talents and abilities. But one must always leave room for exceptions. Even in the Mahabharata, which was written not so long ago (8th and 9th centuries BCE), and in which this Bhagavad Gita appears, there are instances of these exceptions. 

42  — The Actions of Brahmans (God-People)
Peacefulness, self-control, austerity, purity, patience, integrity, knowledge, discrimination and faith, are the inherent actions of Brahmans.

Speaking in general where ‘people’ are concerned, I think of Brahmans as God-people, and God-people as those who practice God-action and therefore know God, and consequently have the above characteristics.

43 — The Actions of Kshatriyas (Warriors)
Valor, strength, fortitude, skill, not fleeing in battle, generosity and leadership, are the innate actions of Kshatriyas.

“Not fleeing in battle” Not quitting when the going gets rough.

The picture of a warrior is one of valuable traits, whether war is concerned or not. Kshatriyas are leaders of people, kind and wise whether in war or peace. In battle, they adhere to traditional rules, i.e., warriors on elephants battle with other warriors on elephants, not archers; an archer will do battle with other archers, not swordsmen; when an archer runs out of arrows his enemy stands down until he has replenished them.

Well, it starts like that. But in the story of the Mahabharata war, as with all wars, honor in battle ultimately falls apart. But it is interesting to know that these ideals existed among Kshatriyas, passed down from times long forgotten.

44 — The Actions of Vaisyas and Shudras
Agriculture, cow-herding and commerce are the innate actions of Vaishyas, and services are the innate actions of Shudras.

The Brahmans are the teachers, scholars and priests of the spiritual, and the Kshatriyas are the barons, warriors and leaders of the people. The Vaishyas are tradesmen who sell their products in large or small businesses, and the Shudras provide services ranging from healing to house-cleaning.

(It is my opinion that the caste system comes down to us from a more enlightened time, and that what was probably original has degraded. In our present age (kali yuga), we are at the bottom of the bucket, and our so-called traditions must surely be corrupted and misunderstood, for this is a characteristic of this age. I believe these four categories of people came down the slide from the satya yuga, the Golden Age, where intolerance and inequality did not exist, and have been degraded, ranked, and set in stone over time.)

45
Content in the performance of one’s own innate kind of action, one attains success. Hear now how one who is contented in his own innate action finds perfection.

We are being reminded that to do our own dharma poorly is better than doing another’s well, and that by doing this, we will ultimately succeed in our endeavors.

It is clear that the teaching here are centered on success, and that doing what you are best qualified to do is essential for attaining it and living a happy life.

Your Life Purpose lies within one of these four general kinds of people. Once you have determined this, you will consider your options within that category, choose one, and succeed. This places you in a position to attain perfection (siddhi – success, perfection and special powers).

Namaste (I bow to the divine one that you really are),
Durga Ma
durgama.com

 

 

Knowledge – Bhagavad Gita, Ch 18, Vs 18-22

Knowledge

18
The knower, the knowing (of the thing to be known), and the knowledge of it, constitute the three factors that induce action. Action, the instrument and the doer are the three components of the action itself.

Knowledge

The knowledge, the knowing and the knower.

“The knower, the knowing (of the thing to be known), and knowledge of it.”

“Knowledge” – what is known.

“Knowing” – the process of getting the knowledge.

“Knower” – the one who receives the knowledge.

Knowledge, knowing, and the knower” is also translated as “Knowledge, the object of knowledge, and the knower.” What is the difference between ‘knowing’ and ‘the object of knowledge’?

“The object of knowledge” is a ‘sense object’ that is perceptible by any of the five senses.

“The knower” is the one who wants to know it.

“The knowledge” is what is received by the Knower — what the knower knows.

“The object of knowledge” is anything your physical senses perceive. Once you have perceived something, whether gross or subtle, you know it. It is now “knowledge” and you are the “knower” of that knowledge.

Once you ‘know’ something you may like it or not. If you like it you act in order to get it. If you don’t like it, you act to avoid it. In other words, the receiving of the perceptions of the physical senses compel action. Whether wanting to have or avoid it, both are ‘desires’.

Desires are considered to be obstacles to yoga, so many yogis try to get rid of them. This is not possible. But it is possible to rise above being attached to these desires by becoming their master (they don’t run you). This is achieved by abandoning attachments and becoming indifferent to their presence.

You are not aware of everything that you know. For instance, it is like looking at something with your eyes while your eyes are also seeing other things in your peripheral vision of which you are unaware but are receiving regardless. 

Also, anything perceived by any of the senses is called ‘knowledge’, but knowledge is not always correct knowledge. 

In this world of human existence, the way we know something requires that the senses reach out to their ‘objects’, perceive them, and bring back what they have perceived to the mind to be known and stored in memory.

KnowledgeIn the world of Yoga, one perceives things in sabija samadhi, but not with the physical senses, but with the sense faculties which have separated from the physical senses. In this situation, what is ‘known’ is Divine, rather than mundane. During this time there is no desire for anything because you are already fulfilled, and any action that takes place is spontaneous and incurs no karma (the bondage accrued by performing action for personal gain).  

In nirbija samadhi however, knowledge is Absolute, so there is no object of knowledge or any process of knowing going on, and the knower is merged into the Divine Absolute. Though he retains his individuality, he is not only beyond any sense of doing, but he is beyond having any sense-of-self. Here there is only all of Us, Divine Love, Perfect Bliss and complete Fulfillment. 

Action

The action, the instrument and the agent.

“Action, the instrument and the doer are the threefold components of action.”

“The instrument” – one or more of the senses and the mind.

“The action” – the act of utilizing the instrument.

“The agent” – the performer of the action.

Knowledge, Action & Agent

19
It is taught in Sankhya, that knowledge, action and agent are of three kinds according to the three gunas. Now here about these:

He is saying that knowledge, action and the doer of action are of three kinds generated by the three gunas. When it comes to action of any kind, including both learning (knowing) and doing (acting), it is always the gunas that are the cause, and it is their attributes of pleasant (sattva), passionate (rajas) or dull (tamas) that determine the nature of the learning and doing, as well as their performer.

Sankhya Yoga is one of the great schools of Indian philosophy that relies on intelligence, logic and reasoning. It takes the only reliable means of gaining proof of knowledge to be perception, inference, and the testimony of reliable sources (those who have proven it for themselves and can give authentic guidance). 

20 — Sattvic Knowledge (pleasant and illuminating)
Sattva - IlluminatingThe knowledge by which one sees one undivided Imperishable Reality in all diverse living beings — undivided in the divided — is sattvic knowledge.

While each of us is a different individual from other individuals in WHO it is that each of us really is, you are the one that you are, and I am the one that I am. As separate embodied beings we appear to be different. But because we are all the same in WHAT it is that each of us Really is — Divine Absolute Individuals — we are undivided in our sameness and our true Reality.

21 — Rajasic Knowledge (reckless, excited)
Rajas - excitingThe knowledge by which one sees numerous living entities in diverse bodies as different and separate, is rajasic knowledge.

Not seeing this undivided sameness in WHAT each of us really is, we see only bodies and personalities instead — we see others as different and separate from ourselves.

22 — Tamasic Knowledge (prone to error)
Tamas - mistake!
But that knowledge by which one irrationally clings to one little thing as if it were all that is, possesses no reason or familiarity with Truth, is tamasic.

Any knowledge that is not based on Truth, but is believed to be true and adamantly clung to for dear life, is tamasic knowledge. We see this kind of thinking all around us in those who ignore Truth, and irrationally adulate what they believe as if it were all that is. This belief — this ‘one little thing’ — is their god. 

Knowledge comes before action, so getting correct knowledge is important. This calls for sattva. This kind of knowledge can be sought in everyday life, or by means of direct experience through meditation.

If you can’t understand sattva or imagine yourself in a sattvic state, look at rajas and tamas and consider how you might manage to avoid them.

Shri Ramakrishna
Shri Ramakrishna in Spontaneous Samadhi

If you are seeking God/Truth (by any name), you will also need direct experience to validate or correct what you determine as Truth. Direct experience is known in scriptures as svarga, or heaven, and in Yoga as samadhi. So you will have to get it from the Source, and there is only one way to do this: you must take up meditation. You can take years learning techniques for meditating and hope to get there in this lifetime, or you can surrender yourself to God/Truth in meditation and get their quickly.

Direct experience is the personal experience of knowing Truth/God directly. ‘Directly’ means ‘without any means’. This includes the mind. You cannot achieve direct experience via the mind. The actual state of meditation, which is what you will need for this purpose, is preceded by six things that occur before it. In Surrender Meditation, these six things will occur in their early stages quickly, and continue to advance over time and practice. Direct experience can occur when these requisite precursors have all been achieved even minimally. 

Namaste (I bow to the divine one that you really are),
Durga Ma
durgama.com

The Five Causes of Action – Bhagavad Gita, Ch 18, Vs 13-16

Cause (disciple) and Effect (guru)
Cause —> Effect

14 – 15
The seat of action, the agent, the instrument, the many different kinds of actions, and the fifth, the will. No matter what action one undertakes with body, speech or mind, whether usual or unusual, these are the five components of action.

Reincarnation“Whether usual or unusual.” Usual or unusual also means ‘proper’ or ‘improper’. He is saying that what He is teaching here applies to action, regardless of whether an act is right or wrong, proper or improper, or understood for what it is or not. In other words, this is solely about ACTION itself and its five constituents.

“With body, speech or mind” reminds us that action takes place with the mind, the body, and the emotions and speech.

The Five Components of Action

  • The seat of action (adhiṣhṭhāna, ‘standing at hand’) – the origin or starting point, i.e., where the action is coming from and what prompts it.
  • The agent of action – the performer of the action.
  • The instrument of action – is the means of action, i.e., the body, senses and mind.
  • The action – the action itself, which is of many and various kinds.
  • The willthe faculty by which an action is determined and initiatiated. 

Will

Cause & EffectYou are constantly exercising your power every moment, because you are making choices every moment. This is precisely why you don’t see yourself as having power, and why you are constantly trying to get it. But this is a losing battle because you already have it, and you already use it.

By using your power of choice to make choices, you are “choosing to choose.” This is called ‘will’. Will leads to bondage and compulsory returns (rebirths) where you have another chance to get it right, but will have no control over where you’re going to land: “desirable, undesirable or mixed.

Surrender

When you use your power of choice to “choose not to choose,” this is called ‘surrender’. When you surrender yourself to God (by any name) you are worshipping God/Truth. Surrender is also called ‘sacrifice’ — you are the offering, the human sacrifice.

You always get what you surrender to.

In Surrender Meditation, you choose not to choose, but to leave everything — body, mind and feelings — to Absolute God/Truth. Having made this choice, your meditation is then directed by God/Truth for your benefit, and the choosing is over for the duration of your meditation period.

When things happen in meditation, such as movements of the body, mind or feelings, at first you have to ‘stand on faith’ that this activity was not of your doing. You take it on faith because, at first, it will feel like it is you doing everything. If you persist with this meditation, it will ultimately lead you to the highest enlightenment: the realization that WHAT you truly are does nothing and never has.

16
This being the case, he who, due to small intellect, looks upon himself as the Agent does not truly see, and realizes nothing.

In this verse, Lord Krishna is saying that once you understand what action is, and what you really are, you will no longer see yourself as a doer (agent).

Karma, cause & effect
Karma – Cause and Effect

He is clarifying the apparent contradictions of non-doing, i.e., “How can I do the right thing without being a doer?” “How can I have a meditation practice and somehow manage not to experience myself as the one doing it?” Etc. But all action is, is the gunas of Nature interacting.

All action occurs in Nature. You are not Nature.

Keep in mind that the real Self is ‘Absolute’, and, as we learned earlier in the Gita, the Absolute is The Eternal Non-Doer. Beings see themselves as performing actions, but all action is performed by the gunas of Nature. The Real You never does anything, and never has. The real Agent then, is the gunas.

Even though you perform action, it is really the gunas that are the cause of it.

Namaste (I bow to the divine one that you really are),
Durga Ma
durgama.com